//Logo Image
Authors: Chen, Y. S., Wang, J. A., Chang, K. W., Lin, Y. J., Hsieh, M. C., Lin, Y. S., Sebastian, J., Chang, C. H., Hsu, Y. L.; recommended: Yeh-Liang Hsu (2012-08-02);
Note: This paper is presented at 2012 International Society of Gerontechnology World Conference, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven (TU/e), the Netherlands, Jun 26~29, 2012. This paper is also published at Gerontechnology 2012; 11(2): 366; doi: 10.4017/gt.2012.11.02.410.00

Telepresence robot – care delivery in different forms

Purpose

Aging is associated with an increased risk for isolation. Information and communication technologies have been utilized to assist homecare of older adults. However, in addition to transmitting vital sign monitoring data for healthcare purposes, the older adults may expect more on communicating with their family members, as well as sharing of life experiences and feelings by different forms of interactions. Communication tools such as mobile phones, video conferencing systems did facilitate interpersonal communication in terms of real-time verbal communication. Mehrabian and Ferris reported that in face-to-face communication, clues from spoken words, voice tone, and facial expression contribute 7%, 38%, and 55% respectively to the total comprehension.[1] Nonverbal communication, such as facial expression and body language, is more powerful and efficient in conveying ideas, thoughts, feelings, and emotions.

Method

The “Telepresence Robot for Interpersonal Communication (TRiC)” has been developed to not only provide verbal communication but also the nonverbal aspects of interpersonal communication.[2] As shown in Figure 1, “TRiCmini Plus”, the 3rd generation of TRiC, is tele-operated by the remote user via the Internet, and the three-dimensional face-to-face interaction is duplicated with two-way audio communication. It also demonstrates extensive capability to provide different levels of “care delivery” to the older adults through robotic movement, vital sign monitoring, and other forms of communications. “TRiCmini Plus” integrates two distinct applications, the “Care Delivery Frame (CDF)” and the telepresence robot. CDF is a software App designed for older adults as an information channel on the tablet, which is also the “face” of TRiCmini Plus. In addition to showing robotic facial expressions, it is the interface for vital sign data transmission and analysis, as well as for the living assistance functions. CDF is integrated with social network services such as Facebook, so that remote children or caregivers can share photos or video clips with the older adults. Moreover, the tablet is also the control center of the telepresence robot. Robot control functions are developed as another App on the tablet, and control commands are transmitted thru Wi-Fi then relayed to the robot control microprocessor via Bluetooth. In this innovative control structure, the robot control App can be downloaded, maintained and updated easily through the Internet.

Results & Discussion

The prototype and functional test of TRiCmini Plus have been completed, and its basic specifications are shown in Figure 1. The Internet bandwidth required is at least 150/5kB for smooth real-time communication. Currently it is under usability evaluation, including the interface design (software interface and robot facial/physical expressions) and operation efficiency for both remote and local users. Finally, the effectiveness of communication will be evaluated in real application scenarios (home environment and senior users) to confirm the “care delivery” in different forms provided by TRiCmini Plus actually meet the expectation from older adults.

Figure 1. “TRiCmini Plus” with four main functions and spec.

Keywords: Communication & Governance; Care Delivery; Gerontechnology; Telepresence Robot.

References

[1]     Mehrabian, A. & Ferris, S. R., “Inference of attitudes from nonverbal communication in two channels”, Journal of consulting psychology, 31(3), 248-252, (1967).

[2]     Tsai, T. C., Hsu, Y. L., Hsu, P. E., “Developing a telepresence robot for interpersonal communication with the elderly in a home environment”, 2007 CACS International Automatic Control Conference, 2007/11.